Archive | March, 2013

blue wood

‘Living with Love and Laughter’

Toby Perkins MP visited the inspirational Bluebell Wood children’s hospice today to see how children and families are supported through the traumatic and heartbreaking experience of caring for and coping with the loss of a sick child.

Toby said: “I cannot imagine a more difficult thing to go through than having to come to terms with or face the death of a child.  I was inspired by the vision and whole family ethos of Bluebell Wood, where staff work tirelessly to give the emotional, nursing and care support a family need as they go through terrible trauma”.

Emma Vizor, fund raiser for Bluebell Wood said: “When children are so ill the time left to them should be memorable and full of ‘love and laughter’ and this is what we hope to provide at Bluebell Wood.  By taking an holistic approach we can cater for the health and well being of the child as well as help to build positive memories for siblings, parents and the wider family alike”.

Bluebell Wood needs to raise £3 million a year, to meet its running costs.  This comes from charitable donations by individuals or businesses, fund raising and the revenues produced by Bluebell Wood charity shops.

During the tour Toby learnt that Bluebell Wood currently supports about 160 families, but that they have the capacity to support more.  There are an estimated 500 families in the catchment area that may benefit from this type of support and the hospice is working hard to reach them.

Toby said “Bluebell Wood do an invaluable job for families across the north midlands and I would strongly suggest anyone interested in supporting the unit gets in touch with Bluebell Wood immediately.  It was an inspiration and I would urge any parent in this situation, who may have doubts about the value of hospice care for their child to come and see firsthand the light, the love and the laughter ”

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Munitions 2

Chesterfield MP recognises contribution of munitions workers in Parliamentary debate

Toby Perkins, Chesterfield’s MP, yesterday took part in a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament, called to recognise the great contribution of munitions workers to Britain’s war effort.  Munitions workers, most of whom were women, were essential to the war effort during the First and Second World Wars and their dangerous work in factories produced the ammunition used by soldiers on the frontline. In total, there were 1.5 million women employed making munitions.

While Armed Forces veterans, ‘Land Girls’ and ‘Bevin Boys’ have all been recognised for their contribution in war time, through special commemorative badges, no such official recognition has ever been awarded to the women who risked life and limb in the munitions factories.

You can read Toby’s full speech below:

“It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. This is not the first time, but it is exciting none the less.

This has been an excellent debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend Robert Flello on his excellent speech and on the work he is doing to promote this issue. He started by reflecting that the debate was recognising some of the forgotten heroes. In as much as they have been forgotten by history, the work that the all-party group is doing and the speeches by hon. Members today are ensuring that they are forgotten no longer. We need to recognise the contribution they made. My hon. Friend reflected on the huge personal risks and sacrifices made by munitions workers, known as “canaries” because of the effects of their work with chemicals. I endorse the work of the all-party group. The Opposition should look to work with the Government and the all-party group on some of the more difficult issues to do with individual recognition.

Mark Reckless broadened the description of people who also served. When discussing this issue, we need to reflect on the many people who contributed in different ways to the war effort. Steps forward have been taken in recent years to recognise various groups, and the hon. Gentleman gave us a glimpse of other groups that we might choose to bring under this umbrella in the future. Perhaps inadvertently, he posed a challenge to my hon. Friend, as the description could continue to grow. At what point do we narrow it down? If we are asking for individual recognition, recognising that collective recognition that is long overdue—although there are real signs that it will be given—what work can the all-party group, with Government and the Opposition, do to try to narrow the description so that we can find out how many people are we talking about, how are we going to find them, who will do the work to see who will receive the recognition, and how we ensure that there is public confidence that a self-certification model will not demean the achievement in receiving it? Questions arise from the hon. Gentleman’s contribution.

My hon. Friend Nia Griffith reflected on the contributions and sacrifices of her constituents. She brought some colour to the debate, with her description of yellow-faced people swimming in a red river, which nicely brought to mind the massive personal sacrifice and contribution that people made. My hon. Friend Phil Wilson reflected on the fact that 90% of the workers in the factory at Aycliffe were women. More than 1 million women worked in munitions factories during the second world war. He alluded broadly to the way that history had, in various ways, written out women’s contribution to the second world war effort. As a society, we are belatedly recognising that contribution, and this debate helps in that process. My hon. Friend was also proud to talk of his respect for the Aycliffe Angels and the contribution they made to the war effort.

My hon. Friend Huw Irranca-Davies reflected on the importance of local munitions factories as employers in the pre-war years. He also reflected on the fact that the big immigration concern in the mid-1930s was whether people would come from Maesteg to steal all the jobs. As the world has shrunk, the issue has broadened out slightly, but it was none the less interesting to hear that concerns we still recognise today were alive and well in Bridgend in the 1930s. My hon. Friend Mr Brown made an interesting pitch for the tourism offer in his area. He made us aware that, today, we can still see evidence of what munitions factories were like, and many people will be interested in taking up his offer. He also reflected on the sacrifices made by workers at the time.

In discussing this issue and the fact that I would be contributing to the debate, I learned that my mother-in-law had worked in the Bryan Donkin factory in Chesterfield. The more we talk about this issue, the more we hear about people we never even realised had made a contribution. The BBC’s “People’s War” website included a contribution from the Derby action team about the war effort of munitions factory workers in Chesterfield. It mentioned that Chesterfield people kept a relentless black-out to ensure the factories were never bombed, although errant German bombers accidentally bombed the Chesterfield football ground and the Walton golf course. What the Germans had against Chesterfield’s sporting prowess, we will never know, but they did not manage to get to the factories.

The eminent war historian Simon Fowler has written about munitions workers, and one quote brings together very nicely some of the issues we have talked about:

“Britain could not have emerged victorious in 1945 without the help of the many who selflessly worked all the hours they could to provide the materials the British Army and Allied troops used to defeat the Germans… People were injured or killed while making munitions every day. Their recognition is long overdue. They played a key part in the War and it’s a scandal it’s taken until now, when there are not many left to see it.”

Many of us would echo those comments. In recent years, there has been not only renewed appreciation of the role of our heroic armed forces, but wider recognition by society and, I glad to say, the Government of those who served in many other ways. In recent years, we have taken huge strides forwards in recognising the contribution of the Bevin boys, the land-girls and the Women’s Timber Corps, and we also have the memorial to women who died during the second world war.

I entirely support the recognition that munitions workers received for the first time at the Armistice day parade at the Cenotaph, and I congratulate the Royal British Legion on that. I also entirely support the campaign for a national memorial at Alrewas. I hope and expect that there will be wide public support for the campaign my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South described.

I acknowledge the difficulty posed by the lack of adequate records, as well as the fear that individuals will, as a result, never get the personal recognition we all think they deserve. I hope that wider recognition will be granted as quickly as possible, given that the clock is against many of those who clearly deserve recognition. Her Majesty’s Opposition are more than happy to be involved in cross-party talks on practical ways to move things forward in a way that enjoys confidence and is effective.

This debate is a time for us to recognise the debt that this generation owes to all those who stood up and were counted in Britain’s finest hour. It fell to them to fight for the essential freedoms that these blessed isles have enjoyed for so long and, God willing, will continue to enjoy. When questions were asked of that generation, they answered—and then some. They saved lives, but they also saved the world from a tyranny so evil that even imagining defeat makes our blood run cold.

In recognising the contribution of all those who served in our munitions factories in this debate, we are also passing on the gratitude, respect and thanks of this generation to all those who heroically served and saved our country all those years ago.”

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Toby and Big Ben

Shadow Minister delivers keynote speech on sales skills

On Thursday 21 March, Toby Perkins, Labour’s Shadow Small Business Minister delivered the keynote speech – “Why Selling is Key to the Skills Agenda” – at the Sales Leadership Alliance Conference.

The Sales Leadership Alliance is a professional body that works to promote standards, build knowledge, enhance professional standing and promote excellence and best practice at all levels and is powered by the Chartered Institute for Marketing (CIM).

The Conference was held at Moor Hall, the CIM’s headquarters, near Maidenhead.
You can read the full speech below:

 

“I’m Toby Perkins, Labour’s shadow Minister for small business

Thank you. Its great to be here… Just a day after budget day, and I did wonder with a penny off beer last night what sort of state I’d find you in.

I feared that some of you might have calculated that if you drank 280 pints, the 281st would be free, but I was of course forgetting the professionalism and dedication that Sales Leadership Alliance members are so famous for.

Because I want to start by saying that the Sales Leadership Alliance does some really important work lifting standards of professionalism across our industry and as I set out to develop some political enthusiasm for boosting the profile and the support for the sales profession, I know that in the Sales Leadership Alliance I have a valuable ally.

As someone who has had a much longer sales career than a political one, I’d like to open by saying a word or two to all those people who have dedicated their lives to a sales career.

 

To business leaders,

Sales directors- bringing through the next generation of sales superstars-

to people who have generated revenue,

employed staff,

trained and developed young people,

paid the tax revenues that have built a thousand schools and a hundred hospitals .

To all those who have supported growth in our economy. I just want to say THANK YOU.

Thank you because without your contribution the UK will never get back on the road to economic prosperity,

Thank you because you take raw potential and help to develop it into the business leaders of tomorrow,

Thank you because the tax revenues generated by the army of salespeople pays for the doctors and the nurses,

the teachers and the policemen.

It pays for the schoolbuildings, the Hospitals, the Libraries and the parks

It pays for the Army,

it pays for the trains, the roads, the flood defences and the pensions.

Don’t ever let anyone again say that sales isn’t an important job, you could say the most important job.

As I alluded to a moment ago I have been the Member of Parliament for Chesterfield since 2010 but before that I was a human being.

Let me tell you a little bit about where my passion for sales has come from.

I left school at 17, went into sales, worked in telesales (like most people I didn’t look for a job in sales, I just kind of fell into it). Met my wife in Sales, she sold too! When you get a seller selling to a seller, everyone’s buying!

From there, I worked in recruitment as a Consultant and subsequently a Branch and Area Manager at one of Britain’s fastest growing companies.  When I arrived we had 15 branches and 150 staff, when I left seven years later, there were 800 of us (I don’t think it was all down to me) but I was proud to grow with the company.

In 2005 I set up my second company, and this one actually did pretty well. Called Club Rugby we were an online rugby kit distributor who also imported and sold bespoke kit to rugby clubs, universities and schools.

But for all the sales we made, I can still remember the first one, and though it was only £22 I can still remember the feeling when my email box went ping and that first order came in.

I can also remember the very first sale I ever made back in 1987. I know what it was for, how much it cost and who it was too. Sales was a passion as well as my livelihood

I can also remember that first morning when I woke up self employed. And that feeling. If I don’t sell something today, we don’t eat tonight. Can be pretty lonely.

Because so many of you will know the truth of one of the oldest adages in business; until someone sells something, nothing happens.

But whilst sales is certainly key to businesses across the UK, it is also a key component of our economy in its own right. Famously the NHS is the world 3rd largest employer, behind just the Indian Railway and the Chinese Army . Yet at 1.7 million people it falls some 500,000 behind the number employed in sales and customer services roles (9% of all the people employed in the UK.)

2million three hundred thousand people employed in selling, and if we could estimate how much of the economy was employed by those people it would be truly staggering.

That’s why I was so disappointed that almost the first thing this government did in its very first budget was to increase the sales tax, VAT, up to 20%. When so many of us see the value of sales, and whilst accepting that this is a bigger issue in b2c sales than b2b, it just sent entirely the wrong message at a time when we desperately need to boost confidence encourage consumer spending, and try to grow our way out of the recession.

And when we identify the big issues facing business today, that lack of confidence continues to hold us back. Its that lack of confidence in the economy that is causing many companies to defer important buying decisions.

It is that lack of confidence, coupled with an over reliance on lending to short term quick buck sectors of our economy that has seen a drought in access to bank finance.

It is that which has left the construction industry facing such tough times and housebuilders sitting on land, and the combined effect of those has left Britain 18thin the G20 for growth in the last three years.

But enough of the negative, because I know that this is a positive audience, determined to deliver growth in tough times, to find innovative new packages to keep sales growing and to find the opportunities that still exist today.

And it is because you are so positive and our businesses so resilient that we all know we can do better than this. It is because of that potential that we want to make it easier for you to access the finance you need to grow.

That’s why Ed Miliband has announced that the days of expecting the same four or five banks to do tomorrow what they failed to do today or yesterday are over.

That we need to open the way to new banks to enter the market, for the old players to feel the hot breath of hungry new local competitors at the back of their necks,

for a banking sector connected to its local economy with a local decision maker finding out how they can say yes,           no more ‘computer says No’.

That’s why we want to see the biggest ever revolution in banking in this country as we look to increase business bank account portability and give firms a real chance of going elsewhere increase peer to peer lending and alternative sources of finance and support a network of local banks tasked not primarily with shareholder profits but sustainable lending aimed at boosting their local economy.

And yet when sales is so key to our economic prosperity, so vital as a source of employment and revenue growth, how can it be that government has so little strategy to encourage young people to pursue a career in sales and so little idea how to help people be good at it.

Consider this…  The A level Business Studies specification mentions production 36 times, marketing 35 times and accounting 22 times. Sales?? Just the once.

In fact it is perfectly possible to complete a three year Business Studies degree without once turning your mind to the idea of how a product or service is sold.

But alongside the value of sales to the UK economy there are other strong reasons for one nation Labour to want greater recognition of the importance of sales.

We face a graduate employment crisis, yet too few graduates view a sales career as attractive, and sales is also a multi tiered role offering a step up for so many people who haven’t enjoyed glittering academic careers.

From telephone advertising sales to the car showrooms and from home improvements to the call centres many people have seen unpromising lives transformed by the discovery of unknown talents.

That’s why as Labour’s shadow small business minister I want to see a future one nation labour government to see sales as a career not to be tolerated, but to be celebrated, respected and supported.

The world is changing, soon the world will house 4 billion middle class people, and the N11 countries are chasing the BRIC nations in fighting for their share of the growth. Success in the future won’t come from being quite good at a lot of things but from what you really excel in.

When we think of the pace of technological change that we have seen in recent years. With the growth of the internet followed by the enormous opportunities created by social media, the electronic  infrastructure developments and necessity for worldwide high speed broadband, the quantity of data we store and move and the technological developments that open new frontiers in every field, in every country, every single day it is hard to believe this:

But the truth is, the pace of technological change will never again be as slow as it is today.

Many of the jobs that our young people will do in ten years don’t even exist today, yet whatever and  however we sell, sell we must.

So in that changing world the skills agenda will place a premium on the capacity to absorb new information and skills, to communicate and to persuade. And whilst technology is changing, so we all know, is the way that we sell and the way that we communicate.

So the sales people of today often need to be technologically competent and capable of communicating in many different forms, as well as having rounded skills.

Last year, the Labour Party held a sales skills summit with professionals from across the world of sales to discuss the role government can play in improving the sales skills of our school leavers, our college and university graduates and how we can ensure sales remains one of the most educationally and socially diverse professions of all, the ultimate meritocracy where performance outweighs background and where how well you perform means more than where you come from.

Since the summit we have visited Portsmouth University, whose business school has an industry leading sales module to their business degree and have visits to post 16 sales academies and Further education colleges set up. We have spoken with sales directors at two of the UK’s largest profession al business to business sales forces, and have met with small business owners across the UK.

Inviting business experts to feed into our policy review isn’t just good politics leading to good policy making, it is absolutely fundamental to ensuring that Labour’s business policy is rooted in the real world needs of British employers. That’s why I am so grateful for the support that we have had from the Sales Leadership Alliance and the ISMM.

We know that Britain faces a serious challenge. The road back to financial prosperity is not a straight one and for us to get there we must make the best of all our talents, to be one nation we must build a country in which we can all contribute and we expect no less of all those who can.

 And we know that we must make more, but to make more we must sell more. That is why the work you do is so important, and why the next Labour government will salute the work you do and promote it to the next generation;

I look forward to hearing your ideas about how we can get more of our young people turned onto sales, and how we can build the growth of tomorrow by better preparing the young today, your insight is invaluable as is the work you are doing. Have a great conference friends, Thank you very much.”

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Local MP welcomes new campaign to support single mothers

Chesterfield MP, Toby Perkins today welcomed a new campaign to boost single parent employment, run by the charity Gingerbread.

46 per cent of families in Chesterfield are headed by single parents and many of these struggle to balance work with caring for their children.  With childcare increasingly unaffordable, a lack of school-hours jobs on offer and reduced opportunities for single parents to get training, finding a decent job can become an almost impossible task, with many single parents in work still struggling to make ends meet.

With 1.16 million children in the UK growing up in single parent families where no-one works, the charity has launched a three-year campaign to Make it work for single parents. It’s calling on the government to support single parents to overcome the barriers they face to work and make a commitment to increasing single parent employment.

Toby Perkins said: “Any parent wants to be able to provide for their family, and we should be doing all that we can to help single parents do just that.  I welcome the fact there is a new campaign which will put this issue at the forefront of the political discussion.”

Three out of five single parents in the UK are in work and the vast majority of those who aren’t in work want to be, argues Gingerbread.  However, new research from the charity has found that into work services from Jobcentre Plus and the Work Programme is failing to deliver the tailored support that single parents need.

Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said: “Single parents are highly motivated to work but face significant barriers including high childcare costs and a shortage of family friendly jobs that pay a decent wage.  They need not only specialist support in the job centre, but a more flexible approach from employers and greater support for childcare costs.”

For single parents who do work, a job is not a guaranteed route out of financial hardship: more than 300,000 children in working single parent families are growing up below the poverty line. Almost a quarter (22%) of single parents who manage to find work are out of work again within a year as they struggle to find a job that offers security.

Toby Perkins added: “Times are tough for many families at the moment and it’s essential that we do all we can to ensure that work always pays and always offers a route out of poverty for families.

“Unfortunately local single parents are also under attack from the Tory-led government’s introduction of Universal Credit which will undermine the flexibility many single parents need to support families their families.

“Mothers of infant school children who have been left by their husbands could now find themselves forced to take full time jobs, evening or night shifts, even if it makes it impossible to do the school run or after school childcare isn’t available.

“Those who can’t manage to find childcare or family friendly hours could lose £70 a week, even though they are already on the breadline. Single parents of school age children should be expected to look for work and support their families as the kids get older. But by ditching the focus on part time work or child care pressures from the Universal Credit regulations, Ministers have proved once again they have no clue about the reality of working mums’ lives.”

You can find out more about Gingerbread’s campaign here.

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Toby visits Brent and takes part in small business consultation

Yesterday (18 March 2013) Toby Perkins, Labour’s Shadow Small Business Minister, took part in a small business consultation at one of Europe’s largest industrial estates.

The event was held at the Royal Oak Business Park in North West London at the kind invitation of the local Brent Councillor, Zaffar Van Kalwala.  Alongside Toby and Zaffar on the panel were Alex Mitchell, a senior member of the Labour Small Business Taskforce which has recently published its final report, David Offenbach, Chair of the Labour Finance and Industry Group and a representative of the local Chamber of Commerce.

The event was attended by around fifty local business people from the Harrow and Brent area and local dignatories including the Mayor of Brent, and the attendees asked a wide range of questions.

The issue which most businesses raised was access to finance and the troubles small businesses are experiencing with banks.  Toby explained Labour’s commitment to establish a new system of regional banks to support small business.  These will be part of delivering a British Investment Bank for which they will be regional partners. It is the latest commitment outlined by One Nation Labour to help business, tackle decades-old problems and underpin a strong long term recovery by rebuilding the foundations of Britain’s economy.

A regional bank is one that only lends to businesses within a defined geographic area. They are civic institutions that seek to support growth and innovation in their local areas, understand their customers, and support long term investments in training, research and innovation.

The panel also discussed how to improve business support and how local and central government can support small businesses through procurement.

Toby Perkins said:

“It was fantastic to come to Park Royal at the invitation of Cllr Zaffar Van Kalwala to meet with local businesses.  As one of the largest business parks in Europe it was the perfect setting to learn about what a variety of small businesses need to survive and thrive.

“One message that came through loud and clear was that we need to do more to help small businesses access finance.  Ed Miliband’s announcement last week, that the next Labour government will introduce a series of regional banks with a public service remit, should go some way to overcoming this.”

After the consultation Toby headed to the nearby Willesden Green high street to see first hand the success of Brent’s “meanwhile spaces” which provide support to small businesses and to visit local shopkeepers.

Toby added:

“I only spent a few hours in Brent today but it was clear that it has a unique character built by the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners from its diverse and innovative communities.

“I was particularly interested to learn about the series of ‘meanwhile’ spaces in properties awaiting redevelopment across Brent.  Its great that the Council are using these provide spaces to incubate local businesses, provide training and bring the local community together.”

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Perkins launches second regional Labour Councillors Business Network in North West London

Yesterday in Brent, North West London, Toby Perkins MP launched the second regional Labour Councillors Business Network (LCBN).

The LCBN allows Labour councillors to share ideas, resources, best practice and develop new thinking.  It also helps Labour Groups seeking to win office to develop strong manifestos with sound business policies and ideas to secure jobs.

As Shadow Small Business Minister, Mr Perkins is the National Chair of the LCBN and is travelling around the country to set up local networks in each region.  The first of these, for the East Midlands, was launched in Nottingham in January, and Toby came Brent’s Park Royal Industrial Estate, one of the largest industrial parks in Europe, to launch the London-region LCBN.

Labour councillors from boroughs right across London attended the event and heard three presentations of best practice from excellent Labour Councils:

Brent: Cllr Mo Butt, Leader of the Council, and Cllr Zaffar Van Kalwala who represents the Stonebridge Ward, which includes the Park Royal Estate
Mo and Zaffar outlined how Brent have used the “Destination Wembley” project to boost local small firms and have used Council procurement to ensure companies create apprenticeships in the borough.  They also highlighted how the Council are leading by example in paying supplier within 14 days and have decreased parking charges to make their high streets more inviting.

 

Camden: Cllr Sarah Hayward, Leader of the Council
Sarah explained how access to finance was the most pressing problem facing small businesses in Camden and explained how her borough is working with the peer-ro-peer lending site Funding Circle to get money to local firms.  Camden are investing £100,000 in the project and are keen to work with other Councils in the city to boost lending.

 

Merton: Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Leader of the Council
Stephen stated that “unlike the Tory-led government, in Merton we don’t just sit back and wait for big businesses to arrive”.  He described how Merton had won recognition for its excellent high streets and how the Council supported its high streets by using the Wimbledon championships to direct people to local shops and have insisted on support from large supermarkets for local shops.

 

After the presentations Cllrs from opposition groups and controlling groups in boroughs as diverse as Barnet, Greenwich, Bexley and Kensington discussed a wide range of ideas and ways to support local small businesses.  These included.

* Ensuring entrepreneurialism is open to all not just as a backstop for those out of work

* Working with the cooperative movement to support small businesses

* Giving local government more responsibility for local economic growth, and more powers to achieve this
* Setting an example with very prompt payment to suppliers

* Emulating schemes such as the Brixton pound.

 

Cllr Steve Cowan (right), the Leader of the Opposition on Hammersmith and Fulham Council, was voted in as the London region LCBN “Champion” with responsibility for co-ordinating future local LCBN meetings and ensuring Labour councils in the area work closely together to share ideas.

 

Toby Perkins MP, National Chair of the LCBN and Shadow Small Business Minister said:

“Although Labour are out of office nationally, there is still much we can do to support the small businesses who are the lifeblood of our economy.

“Across the country Labour councils and councillors are often the first point of access for small businesses seeking support. Labour wants to see more people setting up and working in business.

“At a time when the Tory-led government is making unprecedented cuts to local government it has never been more important for our councils to work together to support their local businesses and economies.

“That’s why I’m delighted to be here in Brent to launch the London LCBN. Labour councils from across the capital are doing some great work to support local small businesses, but this network will give them a platform to share those ideas and best practice and help Labour councils to develop a strong offer with sound business policies and ways to secure jobs.

“Councils from across the country are playing a huge role in demonstrating how the next One Nation Labour government will champion and support small business and I look forward to London playing its part.”

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Perkins visits Portsmouth University Business School

The Shadow Minister for Small Business, Toby Perkins MP, visited Portsmouth Business School yesterday as part of his wider research into the teaching of sales skills in the UK.

Portsmouth University is the only British university to teach sales skills at a post-graduate level.

Mr Perkins’ visit was inspired by a recent round table meeting with sales professionals including the Head of the Marketing and Sales at Portsmouth, Beth Rogers.

Toby believes sales skills are vital for the growth of UK plc and has been calling for more emphasis to be put on sales education in schools, colleges and universities.

He is concerned that professional sales skills have been undervalued in business studies courses, posing a particular problem for small businesses.

Beth Rogers said:

“Toby has a passionate interest in sales education, as do we, and it is encouraging that he is determined to address the sales skills gap which exists in the UK.

“If the UK is to fully and quickly recover from recession we need to develop the professional salespeople and sales managers that employers need and value.

“You don’t get to grow quickly internationally by being cheaper, you get it by knowing how to grow your revenue by being smarter and better at creating value for customers with very different needs – this is at the root of what we teach our business studies undergraduates.”

A few months ago, Mr Perkins started working with the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management to find ways for government to help the sales profession become more credible and to provide better training and clearer career paths for young people.

He believes that what is required to professionalise sales is a research base underpinned by a partnership between government, academia, industry and professional sales institutes.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills has reported that sales and customer service are among the skills most lacking in the workforce and are also among the jobs with high vacancy rates.

Mr Perkins explained:

“So many firms know the truth of one of the oldest adages in business; until someone sells something, nothing happens.

“But whilst sales is certainly key to businesses across the UK, it is also a key component of our economy in its own right. Famously the NHS is the world 3rd largest employer, behind just the Indian Railway and the Chinese Army . Yet at 1.7 million people it falls some 500,000 behind the number employed in sales and customer services roles (9% of all the people employed in the UK.) 

“Despite sales key role in our economic prosperity, a source of employment and revenue growth, there has been so little attention paid to how to encourage young people to pursue a career in sales and so little idea how to help people be good at it. 

“This is why I’m investigating the different paths to boost sales skills, in the work place, in schools and colleges and high education institutions and why I came to Portsmouth this week.  I found the trip to be extremely helpful and the lessons I learnt will form a vital part of our work going forward.”

Toby met with undergraduate and postgraduate students and lecturers and saw first hand the work they do as part of their course, including role-plays, dissertations and reports.  He also spoke to and audience of students and staff on his vision for the future of sales skills.

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Ed Miliband and Toby

Labour launches Small Business Taskforce report – ‘An Enterprising Nation’

The Labour Party today has published the final report of the Small Business Taskforce, chaired by businessman Bill Thomas who is based in Derbyshire.

The wide-ranging review is brimming with ideas to inform Labour’s policy review, and has been warmly welcomed by Chesterfield Mp Toby Perkins, who is also Shadow Small Business Minister, the Leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband MP and Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna MP.

Click here to read the report.

Economic success is made by the many with Britain’s small businesses vital to the future success of our country. That is why the Labour Party commissioned the independent review into how Britain can support small businesses in the challenges ahead, to remove barriers and help foster innovation. The report contains a number of recommendations which could help put small business at the heart of future growth and the economy we need.

Ed Miliband in a speech this week, which launched the report, said a new system of regional banks to support small business, one of the recommendations of the taskforce, will be introduced under the next Labour government.

These will be part of delivering a British Investment Bank for which they will be regional partners. It is the latest commitment outlined by One Nation Labour to help business, tackle decades-old problems and underpin a strong long term recovery by rebuilding the foundations of Britain’s economy.

A regional bank is one that only lends to businesses within a defined geographic area. They are civic institutions that seek to support growth and innovation in their local areas, understand their customers, and support long term investments in training, research and innovation.

As well as regional banks and many other recommendations to improve access to finance the report also includes proposals for enabling businesses get access to broadband more quickly reflecting the importance of the digital future, helping smaller firms to boost their exports including through new export hubs in overseas cities and an underwriting scheme to protect small business exporters, and encouraging a new common sense approach to regulation to improve the quality of regulations, as well as reducing their quantity.

Bill Thomas, a former Senior Vice President of Hewlett Packard Europe and Chair of the Advisory board at Cranfield School of Management, chaired the taskforce. The report, written by business people for business people, builds on the great spirit of Britain’s 4.8 million businesses.

Toby Perkins MP, Shadow Small Business Minister, said:

“Ninety per cent of people moving from unemployment into private sector employment do so with small businesses. Growth and small business success go hand in hand and we cannot deliver excellent public services without the contribution they make to the economy and the Exchequer.

“The 100 recommendations in the final report cover the full spectrum of small business policy – from access to finance and insolvency to skills and the machinery of government – and they are as radical as they are diverse.  These ideas and many more demonstrate how the next Labour government can be the wind at the backs of British small business and they will form a valuable part of our ongoing policy review.”

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party
, said:

“We are extremely grateful to the enormous commitment and imagination Bill Thomas and his team have shown. This is a terrific report that is fizzing with ideas designed to put small business at the heart of future growth.

“I am determined that One Nation Labour becomes the party of the small business and the entrepreneur as together we create a recovery made by the many and built to last.

“We need a change of culture to celebrate and nurture firms by addressing the short-term culture imposed on British business. We want to make it possible for British business to do more of what it is best at: invent, invest, train and prosper.”

Chuka Umunna MP, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, said:

“We are determined to reach out to businesses of all sizes in all parts of the country with an agenda which sees more people setting up and growing their businesses. Many new jobs will come not from a small number of large businesses, but from a large number of small businesses. As this report says, the spirit of everyday entrepreneurship is not in the hands of a few but in the hearts of the many.

“They are the wealth creators of the future. They will be the engines of Britain’s economic recovery and are forecast to be the source of the major technological breakthroughs and many of the new jobs of the future. We are determined to speak for and deliver policies which work all our small businesses and this is what this reports helps us to do.”

Bill Thomas, chair of the Small Business Taskforce, said:

“Small businesses represent 99% of UK businesses and within their ranks lie the seven per cent of high growth firms that create more than half of our new jobs, so they lie at the very heart of economic growth.

“Our process has involved widespread consultation up and down the country and we have received great support from many organisations and individuals. The Taskforce includes entrepreneurs, academics, private equity and venture capital specialists, local government officials and business people drawn from a broad cross-section of sectors.

“There is no magic bullet for enabling small business and consequently the scope of our investigations is broad. Progress is required on a number of fronts and this is reflected in the wide range of recommendations made. In each case, we have sought to identify the problems constraining small business and the potential solutions.”

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I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries in Chesterfield and Staveley so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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